Everything I need to know I learned from my son’s first grade

M & N 4-30-14Love your job and do it. – Super Tall Guy struggled with high energy and impulsivity the entire school year. It seemed like every day he was getting into a bit of trouble in first grade. Wrapping up a parent-teacher conference with the principal in attendance, I thanked the two of them with heartfelt gratitude for being willing to work so hard with him. “Of course,” said the principal, “It’s our job and we love him.” It struck me that she was right and I was thrilled to see them do their job with such loving hearts.

Judge less. Give more grace. – Super Tall Guy informed me one day, “Mom, why are you always judging me? They give me more grace at school.”  Apparently, my constant parent-harping is considered judging and I should give him a little more grace. Very true. They speak the truth.  And if you make a mistake and “judge” the wrong kid, apologize and make amends. That’s what his teacher does

Some things take a lot more time and money than you expect. Let’s take shopping for school supplies at the beginning of the year as an example. Enough said.

Find a routine that works and stick to it….up until the point at which you find you absolutely must change it. Figure out when that homework must be done and stick to it. Kids smell weakness.

It’s okay to reward some behaviors. It is amazing how the “Spelling” grade sky-rocketed once practice was tied to the reward of “ten minutes of TV” (well, technically, “screen time” as the TV is still out of commission thanks to the mysterious “somebody” who keeps getting into trouble!). Rewards in the form of “Leaping for Joy” from the teacher can also become screen time!

Be patient and try again. You won’t always succeed on the first (or 200th) time, but keep trying. Math facts and phonics “special sounds” are pure memorization – do the drill to get the result.

Be present in the moment….and actually listen. If your kid has something to say about school other than a monosyllabic grunt, shut your mouth completely and give space for whatever he wants to say. It’s going to be rare.

Make new friends and cultivate your friendships. Bug your mother incessantly until she sets up a playdate – it’s important. Spend time with people.

Remember that the start and end of a project are always the busiest times. Plan for that.  The first couple weeks of school take an enormous amount of energy to get into a rhythm and you might as well just take off work the last week of school, what with awards ceremonies, family picnics, early dismissal…..

Hug and Kiss your kid every single day. Tell them that they are doing a good job and that they will change the world. Someday they just might believe you.

 

 

Just a little patience….and grace…..and joy.

One push of the pedal…

Two pushes

Three and he was off

Training wheels gone and Micah was soaring…and I’ve heard nothing else for the past two days than “Can we go ride our bikes?”

It’s so fun to see the joy on their faces when they learn something new. Micah knew he was ready to do it this time. Any other time that the training wheels even wobbled a smidge, he would get upset and unwilling to ride his bike. But the other day, it was Ryan’s new bike and it just seemed so attractive to Micah. And there were no training wheels on it so it was the perfect opportunity to try. And he did it – around and around the church parking lot he went, testing out his speed, figuring out how to slow down to make the turns, learning to put his feet down to stop. He was in heaven. I hope he soon learns to use the brakes rather than the tops of his shoes to slow down the tires!

As there was a wrench handy and sheer joy in Micah’s new accomplishments, Noah brought his little bike over and demanded that his training wheels take a hike too. I knew Noah had the balance for it so a few hard twists of rusted bolts, and he was ready to try. His bike is a little big for him so he needed some steadying of it until he got peddling and then kaboom! He was gone. I ran alongside him wondering if I really intended to be helpful in any way should he start falling. Probably not. I shouldn’t have worried – he never even wobbled – and after a few seconds, he said “Next I’ll ride with one hand!”  Tiny little 4-year-old whizzing around on a tiny little bike. With grit and determination and a whole TON of tears, he finally taught himself to start peddling on his own without me holding the bike. It was a mix of his desire and my “planned ignorance” to encourage him to learn.

Such a fun evening for both of them (and they were wiped-out asleep by 7:30!). However, I was not interested in taking them back to the parking lot at 7:10 the next morning and so promised we’d take the bikes to the park after church. Given a little bit of inappropriate running in church (“Geesh, M and N! I JUST told you as we drove in to the parking lot to NOT run in church!!), the bikes were required to spend 10 minutes in the car contemplating their misbehavior before they could get out and cruise around the pond.  Soon, though, the two boys were learning such things as how to avoid casual pedestrians and zippy little toddlers, how to keep their eyes looking forward, and to keep the two bikes away from each other to minimize scrapes and falls. These are lessons that will need to be learned in a very repetitive fashion I can tell.

While the bike excitement lapped the pond, I chased little Seth. As we passed a few people, an older guy caught my eye after he clearly noted the older boys. “Yes,” I said in one of those I’m-the-proud-mother tone of voice, “they just learned to ride two wheels yesterday.” My smile smoldered when he cut “oh, they’re yours, eh?”  I walked on wondering how a total stranger can dash parental joy and wondering what issue he had with the boys (though a few minutes later I noticed him beckon them to slow down and I realized he was probably trying to protect his dainty toddling granddaughter from the vicious bike gang).

It’s amazing how every life is a little thread that goes and goes, intersecting with other people’s threads and getting bumped or jiggled…or totally derailed as a result. My boys’ threads were in the joy of a new skill and the freedom of bikes without training-wheel drag. I rejoiced in their new ability….and “the” stranger’s thread bumped into ours with dismay….but, he does not know their joy. And he does not know that they are still learning. That one day soon they will realize their responsibility as a bike rider to not clip the back of someone’s heel. They will know to keep it slow around other people and kids. They will learn to slow down to make a sharp turn. But yesterday, their thread was so early on in their learning process – they were still working on slight shifts in balance.

As I think about this, I wonder about the times when my life thread bumps into other people and I grump at them or snap impatiently. I knowingly at times or unsuspectingly other times cause a shift in their life. It’s a good reminder to give a little grace as I don’t know where the other is coming from, how far along they are in their thread and what direction they’re actually going in. The word of the month for Micah’s karate class is “patience.” I think I need to work on it a little bit more sometimes.

Okay….the truth….I know I need to work on it more!

So, today I “patiently” lifted bikes in and out of the back of my car (I hate how the wheels turn and pinch your fingers, the grease marks up your hands, and the trunk of the van beeps its refusal to close when it thinks something’s in its way!). And I patiently watched them ride around for another hour.  And I patiently put the bikes back in the garage.

I can’t wait until we get to the beach next week so the boys can walk out of the house, hit the boardwalk, and ride and ride….(and for the sake of innocent pedestrians, I hope they soon learn to dodge people!).